Quan Barry On Creating A New Outing For Local Book Groups

By Laura Anne Bird | Photo by Jim Barnard

Raised in Boston, Quan Barry moved to Madison in 1999 to join the UW-Madison faculty as the Lorraine Hansberry Professor of English. Since then, she’s taken full advantage of the city’s bustling theater, opera, symphony, dance, museum and food scenes.

“Madison is a well-rounded arts town, which is great for everyone, not just book lovers,” she says. On the heels of publishing her most recent novels, “We Ride Upon Sticks” and “When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East,” Barry has stepped up as the first-ever writer-in-residence at Forward Theater Company. Entering its 14th season, Forward produces four mainstage plays each year, plus a new works festival.

In her new role, Barry, along with Forward staffers, has come up with a novel idea for local book clubs.

“Rather than reading a book a particular month, you could choose to see a Forward play instead,” she suggests. “Usually in a book club, you’re bringing a collective but unique experience to a work of art that you first read solo. But with a play, the collective — the group — experiences it together at the same time.

Following every Forward performance (except for opening night), the cast and crew hold a 20-minute talkback. “After this, I imagine the book club heading off for drinks or dinner to dig even deeper, and we can invite artistic director Jen Gray to personally join the group to answer any questions,” Barry says. “I promise there will be no shortage of post-show conversation.”

Barry believes that exposure to theater only enhances one’s love of reading. “Seeing a play is being asked to experience literature in a different way—a more kinesthetic, experiential way.”

Contact Samara Safarik at [email protected] for more details on post-show discussions.

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